The Word of God (II)

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“The word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)

Part 2 in my life-long series.

This post works off one simple premise: God’s word is powerful. And if you don’t believe me, let me just discredit your objections in advance. I’ll just throw some truth your way:

“The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born” (Psalm 33:6). We know a God who “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). It was “at the blast of his breath, that the bottom of the earth could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare” (2 Samuel 22:16).

God is “sustaining all things by the power of his word” (Hebrews 1:3). The hum of the generator powering the whole universe is every word that the comes from the mouth of God. And we have at our disposal this same word of God, that which is “living and active, sharper than a two edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Knowing that “all scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and “spoken that our joy may be full” (John 15:11).

God’s word sits on a shelf. And he intendeds it not be a proficient dust collector. Because God’s word doesn’t just sustain the whole universe (although that alone boasts an impressive resume). God also intends his word be personally, individually, life changing. Given so we can claim no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and fullness of life (John 10:10).

I don’t boast much experience. But I can boast in God’s word. So. Having said all of that. Here’s three absolute gems of God’s word that have really hit home for me.

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Kingdom Culture

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Why do I exist?

Such a simple question. And yet, perhaps the most confusing. New theories for life are constantly being developed and followed. Explanations for a statistically near-impossible universe are mass produced on the conveyer-belt of human reasoning. Even the most mind-boggling advances in design and technology, in this day and age of such incredible knowledge, leave us wanting. It’s beyond us. We can’t reach a consensus conclusion.

And so the answers to why we exist range on a ridiculously large spectrum.

And here’s the deal. Everyone answers the question of why they exist. Whether consciously or not. If not in words, then it shows up in actions. Because what you believe, will always impact how you respond to the world. And how you respond to the world, will always be a reflection of what you believe.

And so this post comes with two prongs.

First, to those of you who are willing to bet your lives away on the education of chance – the everything springing into existence from nothing, all just a statistical freak accident of nature – consider why you exist. Consider how worthless and hopeless you are in light of this view. And then think long and hard about whether this is worth going all-chips-in.

Secondly, for those who are aboard the God train-of-thought. I want to put before you the words of Jesus. I hope to hit you afresh with the blood-bought way Christians are to live and so respond to this world. As described by Jesus. And as recorded in Matthew 5:11-16.

Let’s get stuck in.

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The Word of God

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“The word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)

Welcome to the start of a new series.

This post works off one simple premise: God’s word is powerful. And if you don’t believe me, let me just discredit your objections in advance. I’ll just throw some truth your way:

“The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born” (Psalm 33:6). We know a God who “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). It was “at the blast of his breath, that the bottom of the earth could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare” (2 Samuel 22:16).

God is “sustaining all things by the power of his word” (Hebrews 1:3). The hum of the generator powering the whole universe is every word that the comes from the mouth of God. And we have at our disposal this same word of God, that which is “living and active, sharper than a two edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Knowing that “all scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and “spoken that our joy may be full” (John 15:11).

God’s word sits on a shelf. And he intendeds it not be a proficient dust collector. Because God’s word doesn’t just sustain the whole universe (although that alone boasts an impressive resume). God also intends his word be personally, individually, life changing. Given so we can claim no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and fullness of life (John 10:10).

I don’t boast much experience. But I can boast in God’s word. So. Having said all of that. Here’s three absolute gems of God’s word that have really hit home for me.

Continue reading

Redefining #Blessed

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Our society is always changing.

And perhaps this is best represented in our weird tendency to redefine things. Particularly nowadays. It seems everywhere we turn, a previously unquestioned concept is experiencing a huge social reconstruction. I’m looking at you, marriage. Not forgetting the 63 genders you can now choose from. Here’s the problem:

We all want a say on how life should be defined.

We do it in more subtle ways too. For example, the hashtag #blessed has been used 77,000,000 times (on Instagram alone). And for many (not all) it appears to be a way of boasting whilst remaining humble. Win a sporting event. Pass that hard university topic with flying colours. Get a promotion at work. Be surrounded with friends and family. Live in a huge house. Such events seem to qualify our ability to say that we are blessed.

And so our culture has formed something of a silent creed. An unspoken but very loud anthem, drummed into the hearts of many. That to be blessed is to be subject of favourable circumstance. This is the lie we have smuggled into our internal dictionary.

And there’s a reason I say this is a lie.

To be blessed has become totally synonymous with gain in this life. But Jesus came to tell us those who lose their lives for his sake are blessed.

As always, my opinion means squat.

My greatest hope is to draw attention to the works and words of Christ. And as I understand it, Jesus seriously challenged our definition of what it is to be blessed. And he didn’t do this privately. He challenged it publicly. 

To a crowd of eager and expectant people, Jesus said some shocking stuff. Jesus defined the truly blessed people in life as being poor, hungry and thirsty, and persecuted to the point of death (Matthew 5:2-12). The crowds were not expecting that. Because it sounds like the complete opposite of being blessed. So we have to ask ourselves:

What did he mean by it?

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BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT 

The world says those who are rich and esteemed are blessed, Jesus says blessed are the poor and humble before him.

This one is so counter-cultural.

Because most of us spend our lives trying to be rich. Whether you realise it or not. We strive to be rich in money. Many of us aim for richness in achievements. Most of us long to be rich in our friendships. Rich in reputation. Rich in purpose. Rich in happiness. And so for the most part, we look to life’s many riches as our primary source of joy.

Well, Jesus uses the very first words of his sermon to tackle this issue.

Jesus has little time for those who use stuff as their primary pursuit of joy. He makes it crystal clear – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:2). Incredible! Jesus is extending to us the richest richness possible. He is literally ushering us into the Kingdom of Heaven. And get a load of this:

The only requirement to God’s kingdom is empty hands.

Those who fall at the feet of Jesus totally broken. Those who fall at the feet of Jesus bankrupt. Those who fall at the feet of Jesus bereft of all pride and life’s riches, in passionate abandon of he who can satisfy every longing. It is to that calibre of people, Jesus promises to bless with everything.

Namely, himself.

BLESSED ARE THE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY

The world says those who have everything in abundance are blessed, Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

We have so much stuff.

Food isn’t even an issue for us,  because every type of food we need is at the supermarket down the road. To hunger and thirst in the first world is pretty much a non-issue. But we aren’t let off the hook to easily. Because Jesus isn’t just talking about food and water here.

You see, when you hunger and thirst after something, it controls you. It dictates your movements. It becomes the very thrust of your life. In fact, you know you hunger and thirst for something when you cannot go one day without feeling the pain of its absence.

Because in the end, desiring the things of this world never truly satisfies.

Death puts a dramatic end to all pursuits of happiness. So the words of Jesus ring all the more louder: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus is saying we need to develop an appetite that won’t be satisfied by this world. Jesus wants the stomach of our soul to rumble.

Jesus wants our lives to be so changed, so controlled, and so dictated by a hunger and thirst for more of God. To the point where our reflex-reaction is to show people undeserved mercy, and to spill over with blood-bought purity and peacemaking. And it is to that calibre of people, Jesus promises to bless with eternal satisfaction.

Namely, more of himself.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED

The world says those who are secure are blessed, Jesus says blessed are those who risk everything for his sake.

If the others haven’t blown you away, this one will.

Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Craziness! Nobody in their right mind considers being killed a blessing. Our image of the good life doesn’t usually include death. In fact, hundreds of surveys all come back with the same result – our greatest fear is death.

Yet, God welcomes us to be fearless in death.

How could Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after standing against the Nazi party and sentenced to the gallows, say with his last words “this is the end – and for me, the beginning of life.” How did Obadiah Holmes, arrested and whipped 30 times for holding a church service, turn around to his executioner and say “you have struck me as with roses.”

What made John Cardmaker, sentenced to death for his faith, walk up to the stake on which he was to be burned and kiss it. How did Kayla Mueller – after getting captured, tortured, sexually abused and killed (by ISIS) for defending the lives of children – say in her last letter “by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.”

Holding tight the words of Jesus, these people experienced death as gain.

This is what sets Christians apart from the world. We are blessed because through Jesus, the power of death is no more. Nothing can shake this. Not persecution, poverty, danger or death itself (Rom 8:35). And so we shout “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Because death doesn’t steal our joy.

It only advances it.

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THE MARCHING ORDERS

Our ability to say we are blessed should be primarily predicated on what God is to us. Not what God gives to us.

So go on. Use the blessed hashtag.

But Christian, make sure the world hears you loud and clear. We march to a different drum. We preach a different creed. It goes like this: Jesus is the root of my ability to say I am blessed. And so we count all else as loss except for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Jesus said it in the most explicit way possible. He wants us to desire heaven infinitely more than we desire earth. More than all of life’s riches. Higher than any vain satisfaction in this life. Greater than personal security. Worthy of our whole lives. 

So let the world hear it. Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus. And so we live to advocate serious joy in Christ at all costs. We might face poverty, famine, or even death. But Jesus remains the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

Life uncertain. Hope secure. Blessed always.

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Jesus: No Ordinary Teacher (Part 3)

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I’m currently undergoing an education degree. Training to be a teacher. And throughout my first year, I learnt some of the qualities and disciplines required of a good teacher.

In looking back on 2016, I began a summary of the key qualities to a proficient teacher. Just jotted some bullet points onto paper. And being a Jesus follower, knowing his claim to be our teacher, I looked at the list and asked myself one question:

How would Jesus stack up to the list?

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CHECKING THE LIST

In Part 2 we covered three more bullet points. A good teacher sets clear classroom standards, becomes a role model of how to live within them, and then sacrifices time to help struggling students in the classroom.

Jesus aced the test. In fact, he far surpasses the standards of a good teacher. But now we turn our attention to three more qualities of a good teacher. So get your red pens out.

Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.

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An Open Letter to John Piper

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John.

The reason for this letter is ultimately to thank you. Your words have had a profound impact and a solidifying effect on my faith. And yet, I have never met you. So it would make sense for me to outline how you fit into my story.

When I consider the people in the closest sphere of influence in my life, you do not sit among the parents, grandparents, pastors and friends that have come alongside me. Such people have, and will continue to have, a huge impact on my walk with Jesus.

My early life really set up the kindling. And a fire for God was definitely going by around Grade 10. But then a couple of years later, you waltzed into my life brandished with a flamethrower. And by the grace and power of God, began to ignite a passion in me.

It all started in early 2015. I listened to my first sermon by you – For His Sake and for Your Joy, Go Low. Soon after I found a series you preached on Job. From there I sourced a series on the Beatitudes. All of a sudden, the earphones were out at every opportunity.

All of a sudden, this Bible of mine was coming alive. 

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You taught me many things, for which I want to publicly appreciate.

Firstly, you taught me that the Bible is a feast. Not a snack we choose to ration, but a feast we are required to attend. The absolute centrality you place on God’s word in your public ministry is incredible. In preaching, debating, interviews, social media, blogs, books. What I notice in you is not a half heartedness to the word, but all-out saturation in it.

The way you labour over it. The way you aim to juice every bit out of the word, in order to pierce the heart with Biblical truth. The passion you present it with. I had never realised the Bible could be so interesting. You make obvious your aim to draw attention to God and away from yourself. I have grown to love that.

Secondly, you showed me that real men are totally flawed by the grace of God. Sometimes it makes me smile. Those times when you are preaching and absolutely lost for words. Arms extended, huge smile on your face, eyes brimming with joy as you find yourself passionately struggling to express the depths of the grace of God. I love that. 

I love your presentation of Christ as a wonderful crutch we (the poor in spirit) can rest in and find saving grace. I love strategies like APTAT, by which there is heavy reliance on the grace and promises of God. And so it became much clearer to me. The grace of God is not a once-off experience. The grace of God is radically life-changing stuff. 

Lastly, and ultimately, you taught me that Jesus is worth everything. Even my life. Especially my life. I love how you shine a light on the surpassing worth and supreme treasure that is Christ. The don’t waste your life sermons. The way you slam the prosperity gospel with actual gospel. The purpose behind all of your writing.

It is the echo of the call to magnify the LORD (Psalm 34:3). The rally cry to suffer for Jesus (Philippians 1:29). The longing that we would deny ourselves to a greater joy (Mark 8:34). To make much of Christ whether by life or death (Philippians 1:20-21).

To live a life rooted in the all-satisfying reward of being more close to Jesus.

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John Piper.

In reflection, I think we both see something pretty clearly. What I love about you isn’t you. It is God working in and through you. And for that I will be forever grateful.

See you soon.

Jesus: No Ordinary Teacher (Part 2)

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I’m currently undergoing an education degree. Training to be a teacher. And throughout my first year, I learnt some of the qualities and disciplines required of a good teacher.

In looking back on 2016, I began a summary of the key qualities to a proficient teacher. Just jotted some bullet points onto paper. And being a Jesus follower, knowing his claim to be our teacher, I looked at the list and asked myself one question:

How would Jesus stack up to the list?

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CHECKING THE LIST

In Part 1 we covered three of the bullet points. A good teacher has proficient knowledge of the content, has a passion for the topic and students, and knows how to convey the content in relevant and understandable ways.

Jesus aced the test. In fact, he far surpasses the standards of a good teacher. But now we turn our attention to three more qualities of a good teacher. So get your red pens out.

Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.

Continue reading

3rd world citizens

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We all care about the poor.

The desperately hungry. Without a home and living on the streets. The people bashed and robbed. Socially ostracised. Those drinking muddy, unpurified water. Nothing at all in their possession except the clothes on their backs. Sick to death.

We all pity such people. We feel sorry for how they live. So we donate money, clothes, water towards their villages. Set up organisations. Raise awareness. All in an attempt to help people in need.

But none of us envy their lifestyles. A safe assumption I hope.

The life of someone in poverty isn’t exactly the peak of the human experience. You would have to be out of your mind to desire this life.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Jesus

And then Jesus goes and says that. What the heck.

These were his first words in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). If you know anything about speeches and essays, introductions are used to set the scene and grab attention. Jesus must have been very aware of these factors. His first sentence alone is shocking. 

Picture it with me. The disciples are waiting as Jesus prepares to talk. Religious dudes gather expectantly for inside knowledge on how to perform miracles, or how to get into God’s good books. Intrigued locals join the crowd to hear from this amazing teacher. Everyone is hanging on his first words.

And then for some crazy reason, Jesus starts by promising poor people the kingdom of heaven. Talk would’ve run riot in the town. If newspapers were a thing, they would’ve gone bezerk. Social media would’ve been in absolute overdrive.

The prerequisite to citizenship in heaven is to be poor in spirit. God’s kingdom is promised to poor people.

Crazy stuff.  

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Malcolm Turnbull came under fire recently.

The Australian PM was spotted giving $5 to a poor man on the streets of Melbourne. On the surface, it seemed like a nice gesture. However, news outlets and social media went nuts when they discovered Mr.Turnbull was clutching a stack of notes in his left hand. People were quick to label him greedy and selfish.

The hypocrisy in much of the criticisms of Mr.Turnbull are very real. I’d suggest 99% of those voicing hate against Mr.Turnbull for this act should take a hard look at themselves.

But the fact remains. There is disappointment that with so much money in his possession, Malcolm could only manage $5. That the leader of our people, seeing the poorest in his society, gave that which wouldn’t cost him much.

Whether or not you are critical of Mr.Turnbull is irrelevant. My point is this. Jesus sees the poorest in his society and promises the absolute maximum in return. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Dead set ridiculous. Jesus promises everything to people who have nothing. To put this into perspective, it would be like Mr.Turnbull giving $100 million to the homeless man. We are on that sort of scale of crazy.

But to get the reward, we are called to be poor in spirit. Is Jesus telling us to be desperately hungry? Vulnerable and on the streets? Are we being told be sick and thirsty and homeless and posses nothing – all for the sake of heaven?

That’s ludicrous. That’s insane.

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE POOR IN SPIRIT?

‘Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.’ – 2 Corinthians 8:9

In understanding what poor in spirit means, it makes sense to look at how Jesus treated poor people. Unsurprisingly, one of the most defining features of Jesus was the way he sought the lost (Luke 19:10).

Jesus welcomed in the outcasts. Gave lasting food to the poor and helpless. Jesus invited people despised by the world over for dinner. Those with leprosy and blindness he came into contact with. He healed them. He talked with them (Matthew 11:5).

He came into their world when nobody else would.

Jesus, the very definition of sinless and perfect, consistently and intentionally came into contact with disgraceful sinners (Matthew 9:10). But Jesus didn’t just come into contact with poor people. He identified with them.

Jesus came from a small village, born to a poor couple in a lowly animal stable. He wasn’t too high and mighty for work – heck, he laboured for years as a carpenter. The very Son of God lived and breathed amongst poor people. He understood everyday struggles. He didn’t remove himself from pain – quite the opposite.

Surely this tells us something about how God intended to reach the world.

“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home” – Jesus

Jesus said this to a paralysed man.

So you can see how crazy this statement is. Jesus literally told someone who physically can’t walk to do exactly that. Walk.

Try telling someone in a wheelchair to just get up and walk next time you’re in public. See how that works out for you. You might just experience the miracle of a backhand to the face.

Yet immediately after Jesus said this, a man who had never used his legs before stood up and walked (Mark 2:1-12). Let’s just appreciate how cool that is for a second. Just ridiculous.

But that’s not the only ridiculous thing about this situation.

Back in the day, sickness was considered a punishment for disobedience. It was a common belief that God inflicted sickness upon people as result of sin. Such people living in sickness were often despised and not allowed to live in community with anyone, not even their own family (Numbers 5:2).

Sin had to be expelled from the community so the people could stay clean.

Yet for some reason this Jesus dude felt like it was okay to welcome in a sick, poor and sinful person. So sin had now polluted the community. Great. Thanks a lot Jesus.

But in a mad plot twist, Jesus defies all laws of physics and medical expertise and just heals the man of his sickness. The people were in utter disbelief. It would’ve been like watching someone discover the cure to cancer. This was significant.

Why did Jesus heal this poor, sick and sinful man?

Through this situation, Jesus was sticking up his hand as the solution to the crippling disease of sin. This Jesus was sticking his hand up as God himself. No other explanation would suffice. Who else could be so perfect as to heal someone of imperfection?

No longer would people have to be expelled from the community. Sin that once left humanity paralysed had now met its cure.

Jesus.

Isn’t Christianity just a crutch for those who can’t make it themselves?

A common criticism of Christianity. Funny thing is, we actually agree with it.

John Piper (in a sermon) highlights an interesting thing about this criticism and labelling of our ‘crutch’ as being problematic. He suggested that nobody looks at an injured person with a crutch, and identifies the crutch as being problematic.

The crutch is the solution, isn’t it? 

Here’s where the problem lies. If Christianity is a crutch, then it is only good for cripples. And many people don’t consider themselves cripples. And so it is therefore offensive to an individual’s self- sufficiency to be labelled as needing help.

This is why Jesus is so counter cultural.

Jesus came to provide himself as the crutch for all. The solution to our deepest sickness.

Humanity was paralysed in sin. But through Jesus death on the cross, our greatest sickness is dealt with. As a result we can boldly approach God. Full confidence in the saving power of our crutch, which allows us to walk in the ways of our Father.

And this completely contrasts our way of thinking.

If we want a job, we work hard and present ourselves well. If we want to be better at sport, we train harder. If we want to get better grades, we study harder. If we want to get anywhere in life, it takes our own effort.

Then Jesus comes along and flips it. To be poor in spirit is to realise the state of our sickness without Jesus. To be poor in spirit is understanding that before God, we have nothing to give. All the work Jesus has already done.

It is finished. 

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PULL UP A SEAT

My Dad wrote a letter when I was born. In this letter he explains the reasons behind choosing my name – and qualities he hoped I would cling to.

Dad used the biblical Jonathan as an example of holding high the qualities of loyalty and friendship in my life. Jonathan was a very loyal man, who had a strong friendship with David. However, Dad suggests (in his letter) it is what comes of their friendship that is equally significant.

Eventually Jonathan died. To honour the deep friendship David once shared with his friend, he found a lone descendant from Jonathan’s line, a cripple called Mephibosheth. To this lowly, dishonoured man he gave the right to eat at the king’s table from that day on (2 Samuel 9).

Because of David and Jonathan’s strong relationship, a man lowly and crippled was given access to eat at the King’s table.

‘God has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence…’ – Colossians 1:22

Jesus has a perfect relationship with God.

And by extension, Jesus death and resurrection brings us into the presence of the King. Into the very presence of God. God invites us to eat at his table because of the deep relationship shared with Jesus Christ.

Lowly, hungry, flawed and crippled in sin – yet God chooses us to eat with him. Through Jesus work on the cross, we can claim our seat at the table.

“Tell a broken, crippled and dying world that they may come and eat at the King’s table.”

Pull up a seat.

 

Jesus: Really Satisfies

 

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Snickers have an awesome marketing team.

In one of their ads, an old man is attempting to pull off a big jump on his motorbike. Yes you heard me right. But the old dude is super confident about his chances. He thinks he has the jump covered. However, in a twist of events, old dude starts to lose control of his bike. He takes off from the jump but, you guessed it, he fails miserably. He face-plants into the ground.

Eventually a mate walks over and hands the old man a Snickers bar, because he “becomes a cranky old man when he’s hungry.” The old man angrily takes the bar, and after taking a bite, instantly morphs into a young man. He has become a new man. No longer hungry – he is back to his normal self and ready to hit the jump again. The commercial ends with their simple catch-line:

“You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers really satisfies.”

I think a round of applause is in order. That’s the sort of advertising we turn the television on for. That’s the sort of commercial we all want in-between overs of the cricket. Inspirational stuff.

No I’m not a Snickers salesman in disguise. This is going somewhere. Stick with me here.

“I am the bread of life” – Jesus

Like the Snickers advert, Jesus claims to fill our deepest hunger. Jesus claims to be really satisfying. And Jesus used bread as his analogy of being satisfied.

I know. Disappointing stuff.

Of all the things to compare yourself with, Jesus calls himself bread. Boring old bread. Not the pizza of life. Not the cheeseburger of life. Not the snickers of life. The bread of life.

Shoutout to all you gluten free people out there. Sometimes I wonder what goes through your minds when Jesus calls himself the bread of life. You the real MVP.

The question remains: why did Jesus equate himself to bread?

Let’s get a roll on.

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FOOD FOR LIFE

“I am the living bread…anyone who eats of this bread will live forever, and this bread, which I offer so the world may live, is my flesh” – Jesus

Our basic human right.

When we’re talking the most basic rights, sufficient food and adequate water supply is deadly important (literally). Forget other social issues that the media like to give more weight to. Food and water is the most basic, necessary, vital human need.

Now we’ve got to understand some context. Bread was to the Jews what rice is to Asia. Their staple diet. The food most routinely eaten. It took up a dominant portion of their regular food consumption, providing the required energy needs to that certain group of people.

So by equating himself to bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. A basic human right that all people should have access to. Vital in growth and development.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above) aims to understand what motivates people.

His theory was that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfil the next one, and so on. The needs start at the very basic level (Physiological) and work up to the top (Self-Actualisation). Some pyramids add another level on top, Transcendence, which is essentially seeking to help others reach their potential.

Many people have often labelled life as The Pursuit of Happiness.

For the most part, I think it’s pretty spot on. We generally try to fill our lives with things we enjoy. I doubt many people leave home each day intentionally looking for ways to increase their sadness. We all have a deep need for belonging. Good friendships, relationships, family. We try to fill our lives with things we enjoy doing. Activities that are fun. Things that challenge us.

Essentially, we are up in the top three tiers of the pyramid. Satisfying the needs that only privileged people can reach. But these are all secondary issues

Jesus saw a people starving themselves spiritually. He saw a people that thought pretty highly of themselves, yet bypassing their most basic needs. Avoiding their basic need for him whilst trying to climb to the top of the pyramid.

I’ll say this once: we are never going to reach the top of the pyramid without a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). All we have worked for, that pyramid we climb, will come crashing down at our final breath.

Death puts an end to all pursuits of happiness. Mankind has its fate sealed. Everything we enjoy now is just temporary. The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and death separated us from God.

Morbid stuff.

But Jesus had intense compassion on the human situation (John 3:16). He saw a people doomed for death and chasing secondary issues. He loved the world so much that he provided the solution to our mess.

Himself. 

“Give us today our daily bread” – Jesus

This was pretty cheeky of Jesus.

The disciples had just asked Jesus how they should pray. He responded with what we affectionately know as The Lord’s Prayer, which includes the words “give us today our daily bread.”

Some might have (justifiably) thought Jesus was talking about actual, physical bread. But Jesus wasn’t talking about actual bread here. He was referring to himself.

Jesus was essentially rehashing the same awesome message: I am your staple diet – come to me regularly. I am your basic human right, let me grow and develop you into the person you were made to be. I am the provider of all the energy and motivation you could need. I am the solid foundation that your life needs to be built upon.

I am.

Jesus provided himself as the bread for all – that we could be completely satisfied through him. Whoever comes to him will never hunger again (John 6:35).

That through him we would have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

It is no coincidence that God uses bread as a symbol of his provision throughout history.

The feeding of the 5000. 

People have flocked from everywhere to see Jesus. To hear his teachings, talk or be healed by him. Everyone just can’t get enough of this Jesus. Time passes. The huge crowd eventually grow hungry. The disciples, seeing the obvious dilemma regarding the food-to-people ratio, suggest Jesus should send the people home so they can buy their own food.

Jesus, not known for following the rules of physics, feeds the thousands with just five loaves and two fish. Just another day at the office for the Son of God.

The disciples and the crowd are obviously amazed. Gobsmacked. Somehow Jesus managed to feed a huge crowd from an extremely little amount of food.

What was the creed behind Jesus doing this?

On this particular day, Jesus was providing for the people’s physical need for bread. But through this situation, Jesus calls all people to a type of bread that doesn’t perish (John 6:27). That doesn’t make them hungry again. He is the bread that gives life, that truly satisfies.

Jesus doesn’t just call himself the bread of life and then fail to provide bread. What a massive disappointment that would be.

Jesus demonstrates here that there are no limits to his provision. There are no limits to his power. Everyone can eat of his bread and be satisfied.

Heck, there are even leftovers.

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THE BIG PICTURE

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” – Jesus

Cast your minds back to the Snickers commercial.

We have a big jump ahead of us. Life. We try to satisfy our lives with all types of things. Relationships. Good times. Success. Everything is going great. We start revving our engines towards the ramp. Everything is cool. Everything is under control.

Until we actually hit the jump.

The jump proves too big for anyone to make. Humanity always falls short of the mark.

Forget climate change. Forget the economy. Forget equality. The biggest problem the world faces today is death. Nobody avoids death, everyone falls victim to it. None of us can build a ramp and jump over death. Everyone that tries ends up face-planting into the ground. Confused. Angry. Hurt. Dirty. Hopeless.

Enter Jesus.

He finds humanity in its mess. Caring so much for the world he comes and extends a hand to us. Offering life. Full of compassion he meets us in the dust. Expressing his deep longing that we stop filling ourselves with that which only he can satisfy.

And when we take up his offer, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become like a new person. We take part in the greatest testimony anyone could ever have: that we are not saved from death, but through it.

That ramp which once limited us is now not even an obstacle. The gap has been bridged.

Jesus: eternally satisfying. 

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Just the rubber band

rubbe-r

Each day looks very different for me. Take a few weeks ago as an example.

I (just) finished 3 assignments and sat an exam for university. That took up most of my week. But I also worked in a fruit stall at my local markets. I helped lead at youth group. I caught up with my church. I worked as a dishy in a restaurant. I went for a few bike rides. I went hiking with one mate, had coffee with another friend, and saw another mate in hospital.

But it’s so easy to forget God in the chaos. With so much going on, I regularly need to be reminded and encouraged of my purpose here on earth. Each day looks vastly different, but I need the same reminder each day to keep me on track.

And I use a rubber band on my wrist as this reminder.

Why?

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Rubber bands hold and contain things. Often I find rubber bands lying at the foot of letterboxes. They are most often used to hold a bunch of letters, pamphlets or magazines together until they reach the destination (letterbox).

Breaking news, I know.

However, the rubber band has almost no value. Heck, a whole bag of these rubber bands only costs a couple of dollars. Once used, they’re discarded onto the ground. Most people walk past or on them without noticing. They’re pretty insignificant.

What makes the band significant is the message it helped deliver.

We as Christians are the rubber band. Like the rubber band, we hold and contain an awesome message to tell the world. We are called to share the awesome message of complete and utter forgiveness, unfailing love and ridiculous joy through Jesus. Eternity and perfect community with him and his people.

But like the rubber band, we aren’t very valuable in ourselves. Sure, you and I are OK at some things. But we aren’t hugely significant in the global context of things. In the history of the world, our lives aren’t exactly bookmarked.

However, we take on tremendous value because of the message we carry.

‘God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…’ – 1 Corinthians 1:28

So when others point out our flaws and failings, we can confidently agree with them. In fact we can boast in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The creator of the universe chose us, insignificant and flawed, to contain and proclaim to the world his message of hope. His strength where we are weak – now that’s something to boast about.

All glory to him.

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“I did not come with eloquence or wisdom… I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” – Paul [1 Corinthians 2:1-3]

Paul understood being a rubber band well. He told everyone he wasn’t a crash-hot speaker. He let everyone know that he didn’t have amazing wisdom. In fact, he told the crowds that he was weak and scared.

Paul realised he wasn’t significant to the message he was giving.

All he really understood was that he had to deliver the message he possessed. Nothing would stop him. He understood the significance of what he contained, and despite knowing all his weaknesses and failings, put pride aside for its delivery. God worked through the flawed, weak, not particularly intelligent man that was Paul – and did amazing things through his life.

What a testimony.

Maybe we should take a leaf out of his booklet. Our identity with Christ and his message of hope is what gives our lives meaning beyond the grave. Nothing else. May we never lose sight of the significance to this message we contain.

I leave one challenge to all the rubber bands reading this:

In humility, stretch yourself